The SFFaudio Podcast #307 – READALONG: The Lord Of The Rings (Book 1 of 6) by J.R.R. Tolkien

March 9, 2015 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 


TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #307 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa talk about The Lord of the Rings Book I (“The Ring Sets Out”) by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Talked about on today’s show:
On the comparative merits of the book, movie, and the BBC audio drama; the similarity between the audio drama and the film; Ian Hom as Frodo in the audio drama (elder Bilbo in the film) and Michael Hordern as Gandalf; Rob Inglis’s superb audiobook narration and singing; poetry and singing as a reflection of Tolkien’s mythological influence; Kenneth Morris’s influence on Tolkien; The Silmarillion and the creation of Middle Earth; The Tolkien Professor and Michael Drout as resources for further Tolkien scholarship; Jesse’s first encounter with The Hobbit; the birth of Jesse’s fascination with audiobooks; the depth of Tolkien’s world-building and lack of depth in fantasy successors; Aragorn is unsung hero; on how the audio helped Jenny get a handle on the series; Seth’s regular reading of the novels; Maissa has questions as a new reader; the cliffhanger ending of Book I; on the making of the rings; the ring as an analogy to modern technological addiction; Steve Jobs as Sauron; Maissa envisions true palm technology and Jesse envisions a real technological ring; Doctor Who; Socrates, Gyges, and a ring of invisibility, how much agency does the Ring have?; religious subtext; more on the ring’s agency; “more than one power at work”; on how Tolkien had to retcon The Hobbit; Tolkien’s letters and his attention to detail; Frank Herbert’s similar world building process in Dune; on Middle Earth’s historical depth; the cats of Queen Berúthiel; Farmer Maggot vs. the Black Rider; hobbits make the story relatable; Gandalf as rabble-rousing priest and prophet (Moses, Jeremiah); “birthday presents” and the circularity of the tale; “The Conspiracy Unmasked” and the power of friendship; the untold tale of Fredegar Bolger; on the faults of hobbits; parallels with modern military conflicts; economics in the books (or lack thereof); the varieties of goodness and evil; the Prancing Pony has free wi-fi; a time of transition and the Elves’ pilgrimage to the Gray Havens; on Gollum’s possession of the ring; Tom Bombadil as unexplained phenomenon; Jesse wants a Tom Bombadil Bed and Breakfast; on the importance of Frodo’s encounter with the Barrow White; Tolkien could have written weird fiction; Sam’s selfless sacrifices; Tolkien’s impact on our real lives; we are all Butterburs wanting to be Sams; Sam learning his letters; class differences in the Shire, Hobbiton as Downton Abbey; “the road goes ever on”; does Sauron have corporeal existence?; no Harry Potter style set pieces in favor of a much more organic feel; Jesse tells us the definition of scrumping; Tolkien’s descriptions of nature; on Tolkien and fantasy tropes; influence on Dungeons and Dragons; Bombadillo cadence; comparisons with contemporary writing of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series and Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories; Tolkien’s preference for allegory over history; the power of words in Tolkien and its parallel with Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea; on the novel’s slow opening; on the film’s simplification of plot and characters, Merry and Pippin in the film are Dumb and Dumber; if Gandalf can make fireworks, why are there no guns in Middle Earth?; for a wizard, Gandalf doesn’t do much magic; (who let the dogs out?); Tolkien and World War I; on Gandalf’s refusal to take the ring; on the etymology of wraith and the origin of the ring wraiths; more on Plato and Socrates’s Ring of Gyges parable; Gollum’s fascination with roots and beginnings; Aragorn’s healing power (foreshadowing!); giving the ring to the wrong person is “like giving a machine gun to a baby”; Saruman twisted by even the idea of the ring; Maissa is a prescient reader.

The Lord Of The Rings - The Fellowship Of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien - Illustration by John Howe
The Fellowship Of The Ring - A Part Of The Shire - MAP
MAGNUM - The Fellowship Of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl

October 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Future for Curious PeopleThe Future for Curious People
By Gregory Sherl; Narrated by Heather Corrigan and Justin Torres
Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
Publication Date: 2 September 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 hours, 30 minutes

Themes: / near future / technology / relationships / librarians /

Publisher summary:

Meet Evelyn and Godfrey. Evelyn is breaking up with her boyfriend, who’s passing out advertisements for his band on a snowy street corner in Baltimore. She’s seen their dismal future together at Dr. Chin’s office: she and her boyfriend, both many years older, singing “Happy Birthday” to a Chihuahua and arguing about cheese. She hopes for more. Meanwhile, Godfrey is proposing to his girlfriend, Madge, who’s not quite willing to take that leap; she wants to see their future together first—just to be sure they’re meant for each other. The Future for Curious People follows Evelyn and Godfrey’s soon-to-be-entwined lives, set in motion by the fabulist premise of a world with envisionists like Dr. Chin. In struggling with their pasts and possible futures, the characters encounter the mysteries of sorrow, love, death, and fate. It’s a story that will capture you with its brightness, its hopefulness, its anxious twists and turns. It is a love story that is ultimately a statement about happiness and how to accept our fleeting existence.

This was a highly enjoyable book about people who can’t help but look into their relationship futures, with great consequences to their current entanglements. The two narrators on the audiobook portray Godfrey Burkes and Evelyn the Librarian very well, alongside distinguishable minor characters with different voices. The varieties of futures don’t get old, in fact they relate to one another and connect to the futures of other characters, as they should.

The book made me laugh quite a few times – it’s the kind of humor that’s just cute, like a romantic comedy. I’m a sucker for light, cute stories when the characters are bookish or quirky or otherwise unusual. This fits the bill!

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of Breach Zone by Myke Cole

September 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Shadow OpsBreach Zone (Shadow Ops #3)
By Myke Cole; Read by Korey Jackson
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours, 54 minutes

Themes: / military sci-fi / special powers / flying /

Publisher summary:

In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign ” Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’ s ever known. In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.

When Scylla’ s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil.

Breach Zone is the conclusion to the Shadow Ops Trilogy, which begins with Control Point and Fortress Frontier. As much as Control Point is Oscar Britton’s book and Fortress Frontier is Bookbinder’s, Breach Zone was firmly Lt. Col. Jan Thorsson’s, aka “Harlequin.”

This is an interesting perspective. I doubt Harlequin is close to the top of anyone’s list of favorite characters in the series, but after seeing the world from his perspective, the Jaime Lannister effect takes place. Not only do you begin to respect his actions, you begin to see that he’s changed quite a bit through this whole ordeal from his initial stark, rule-following persona.

I can’t deny, I wanted to see more of Oscar Britton and Allan Bookbinder. They’re present, just not in the forefront as they once were, but I really enjoyed their powers and wanted to see more of each at play. At the same time, I, somehow, never really thought of the implications of being an Aeromancer and I can’t say I’d complain if I was suddenly given the power of FLIGHT. Not to mention control over the elements such as wind, lightning, and generally the power of Zeus. Yeah, that’s cool too.

Overall, Breach Zone is an excellent conclusion to the entire trilogy. The action is superb and the setup through the trilogy is just about perfectly satisfied in this final volume.

My only real complaint I have is with the audio narration of this novel. I have to admit that at first I thought the narrator, Korey Jackson, was perfect for the part. He’s great at the different voices, does the military stuff well, and he’s convincing. What could possibly go wrong right? Well, first off, he reads really slowly. A book this size is normally 9 to 10 CD’s, but this one is 12. I thought the book was just longer at first, but I checked it against the printed version and it’s not really a typical 12 disc size novel. Believe me. I know this.

If I had the ability to speed it up, I would have used it. As a reviewer, however, I tend to avoid speeding up audiobooks because I want to be able to  hear a book in its natural state. But what the slow-reading narrator does is kill a good amount of the tension. It’s hard to believe that events are ramping up when the narrator doesn’t seem to care.

At the same time, he sounded detached. This could have been a result of the slow reading or very closely tied, but he just seemed to be going through the motions and I didn’t hear the passion like I hear in the really good narrators.

Luckily, the strength of the narrative shines through and for the parts that didn’t require a high degree of tension Jackson was great. Honestly, his voices were spot on and I can tell why he was chosen.

Shadow Ops is one of my favorite series of recent years. I dearly hope Myke Cole heads back into this world some more because it’s filled with awesome. The superpowers are deftly done, and the politics are highly believable. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill meathead novel. There’s great action and it keeps you thinking as well. I’ll be reading anything and everything Myke Cole puts out.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan

October 14, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Crown TowerThe Crown Tower (The Riyria Chronicles #1)
By Michael J. Sullivan; Narrated by Tim Gerald Reynolds
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 6 August 2013
[UNABRIDGED] = 12 hours, 49 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / warrior / thief / prostitutes /

Publisher summary:

Two men who hate each other. One impossible mission. A legend in the making.
Hadrian Blackwater, a warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with Royce Melborn, a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most prized possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels that the old wizard is after, and if he can just keep them from killing each other, just might do it.

The Crown Tower is the first book of the Riyria Chronicles series by Michael J. Sullivan in the same world as his Riyria Revelations series. Even though published later than Revelations, the Chronicles books are chronologically earlier and explore the adventures of the same characters before the events of Revelations. Sullivan gives a great forward to the book explaining all of this and explains that he went to great lengths to ensure that a new Riyria reader (like me) could start from either point. The Crown Tower serves as a great introduction to the world and the characters and I’m looking forward to more Riyria!

The plot of the novel mainly follows two threads: Hadrian is a highly skilled warrior who has quit fighting in armies and killing men for no good reason. He gets roped into a high risk heist with a thief (Royce) he doesn’t like or trust by an old wizard friend of the family. They need to steal something from an impregnable tower but there seems to be more going on here than it seems. Gwen is a prostitute stuck in the city of Medford waiting for a man of prophecy she isn’t sure will actually come. She works for a terrible man who cares nothing for his girls and is quickly reaching the breaking point. Oh and she can tell a man’s past, present, and future by reading his palm. Gwen’s story was the less compelling of the two threads for me, but I’m sure parts of her story have greater significance in later portions of Riyria.

I really like the dynamics between Hadrian and Royce just because of how different they are. Hadrian has hope in the world, faith in the goodness of people, and a desire to help others. Royce trusts nothing, no one, and is prone to killing innocents to remove the possibility of witnesses whenever needed. One is outgoing and the other is a complete mystery. Naturally, they hate each other.

I also really like the setting of the world and the way the book is written. So many fantasy book are going the direction of “grimdark fantasy” where everything is gritty and terrible, fights are graphic, and sex scenes are pornographic. Sullivan does a great job of being realistic portraying people in dire circumstances (like the prostitutes) while still keeping the novel clean overall. He manages to have a brothel in this story without being pornographic! Amazing! Sullivan also doesn’t dwell on gore and violence while still having compelling action scenes. He builds up some serious anticipation to see Hadrian fight and does not disappoint when it comes.

As for the audiobook performance, Tim Gerard Reynolds does a great job with the different characters’ voices in this book. Hadrian and Royce’s voices match their characters really well and I had no trouble following anything going on. He did well building up the suspense during the climax of the book. I am definitely looking forward to more novels read by Reynolds.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Commentary: – an audiobook delivery system that just works

March 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commentary 

SFFaudio Commentary, Blackstone Audio’s online audiobook store, is a genuine competitor to

It offers audiobook downloads of titles, from Blackstone Audio’s extensive catalogue, and also those from many other audiobook publishers like Recorded Books, Harper Audio, Penguin Audio, Hachette Audio, and AudioGo.

Their subscription service is almost identically priced to Audible’s, each offers one credit per month for about $15. And, like an Audible credit, a Downpour credit almost always gets you one audiobook.

I signed up for Downpour when they started late last Summer. And so far, I really, really like it.

I’ve had an account with since 2001. But has always caused one giant problem for me: DRM.

DRM is actually designed to prevent you sharing your audiobook with your friends and family.

But worse, it can also make it difficult for you, the owner of the audiobook that you bought, to actually listen to what you have paid for.

Over the years I’ve spent countless hours trying to make an audiobook, that I bought, play on my audiobook players.

Every single time I’ve bought a new computer, iPod, iPad, or iPhone I’ve spent time authorizing and deauthorizing my devices. Sometimes it just takes a couple of minutes, sometimes hours.

Audible’s DRM makes you have to authorize your iTunes account, and your computer, and your iPhone, and your iPad, and your iPod. And you have to deauthorize your old devices to make the new devices work. You can’t have all of your devices authorized if you have more than three.

I just want my audiobooks to work like regular books, I want them to open up and give me their ideas. DRM cripples your ability to do that. has no DRM at all. It just works.

In fact it works absolutely perfectly.

You make a purchase, it shows up in your online library, and then it downloads and delivers itself to your devices.

It is smoother than any audiobook service I’ve ever seen. It’s even smoother than Tantor Media’s excellent DRM-FREE download service.

If you use an iOS device for an audiobook, like I do, I’m betting is will work for you.

If you use a different audiobook player Downpour offers MP3s, which work with every audio player.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #190 – READALONG: Beowulf

December 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #190 – Scott and Jesse talk about the epic poem, Beowulf (and the Tantor Media audiobook edition read by Rosalyn Landor).

Talked about on today’s show:
The Odyssey, mead, Recorded Books Modern Scholar series, Michael D.C. Drout, Norsemen in the Mediterranean, “embarrassingly subservient to their women”, Miklagard, Russia and the Rus, Vikings -> Normans -> Britons -> Crusaders, the fall of Rome, Beowulf: A Dual Language Edition by Howell D. Chickering, Jr., the king of the blanekty blanks, Seamus Heaney translation, popularity of Beowulf, the Icelandic Sagas, Greeks vs. Romans vs. Scandians, more mead halls, fewer philosophical schools, guardsman vs. tutors, action vs. xenia, thanes just wanta band up, “they’re Klingons”, The 13th Warrior, Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Crichton, biker gangs, Hrothgar, Scyld Scefing, Unferth (un + frith = “mar peace”), Herot, the challenging retainer who gives the hero a sword, the swimming contest, Beowulf (the 2007 Roger Avary/Neil Gaiman adaptation), the visual composition, Babylon 5, Wiglaf, “badasses must compete”, Eric S. Rabkin, nine hours underwater, Grendel -> Grendel’s Mom -> The Dragon, the hoards, “a story to tell while you’re drinking mead”, “story is at the primacy”, “she’s got tentacles!”, the spawn of Cain, “Cain’s clan”, Beowulf is a poem about pagans by a Christian, the historicity of Beowulf (literally “bee” + “wolf” = “bear”), The Iliad, The Odyssey, historical King Arthur, J.R.R. Tolkien, what kind of poetry is it? It’s EPIC!, Tantor Media’s version of Beowulf (translated by Francis B. Gummere), the LibriVox version of Beowulf, Brian Murphy, “whale road” vs. “whale path”, Kevin Crossley-Holland, “foundling” vs. “waif”, Caesar -> Kaiser and Czar, The Hobbit is like Beowulf told to children, rapine warriors vs. cute dwarves, The Lord Of The Rings, golden rings and magic swords, breaker of swords, visual parallels Grendel’s arm + socket -> Beowulf’s arm + socket, “movies excel at visual metaphors”, “the thirteen dwarfs is not a good idea”, heavy going, watch the movie first then read the poem, Beowulf’s death, “often when one man follows his own will many are hurt”, “his high destiny”, a Talmud for Beowulf, having it every way, arguing the Bible, the etymology of “Homer”, we’re fans, Brendan Gleeson, Wiglaf’s choice, why Grendel’s got a grudge, monsters as externalizations of horror within, Viking men and their bastard sons, kings need heirs, the sins of the father (and Original Sin), the family of Cain, why did Cain kill Abel, capturing the reasons hidden within the story, Robert Zemeckis, adaptations of Beowulf, why put Beowulf in the future, the Christopher Lambert Beowulf, The Monarch Of The Glen by Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things, Grendel by John Gardner, Eaters Of The Dead |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Herot Series by Larry Niven, Steve Barnes, and Jerry Pournelle, Sons Of Anarchy, Hamlet, overturning the mead benches, named swords, Hrunting



Posted by Jesse Willis

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